Dustbot: Bringing a Vacuum-Cleaner Agent to Life

Debra T. Burhans and Michael Kandefer

A simple vacuum-cleaner agent is introduced in the Russell and Norvig artificial intelligence (AI) text to illustrate different agent types to beginning AI students. Underlying the different agent types are several simple actions that take place in a vacuum cleaner world consisting of a grid of squares, some of which contain dirt. The actions of the agent include turning left or right, moving forward, and picking up dirt. Having students write a program to simulate the vacuum world is a useful way to provide them with a feeling for different agent types in a simplified environment. However, implementing a vacuum-cleaner agent using a low-cost robotics kit might teach students much more about agents in the real world and could serve to get them interested in and excited about AI in a way that working with purely simulated environments may not. This paper describes the design and implementation of Dustbot, a robot based on the Russell and Norvig vacuum-cleaner agent. The Dustbot project was carried out as part of an independent study by a student who had already taken the undergraduate AI course. The purpose of the project was to test and debug the vacuum-cleaner robot and to develop a set of instructions that could be used in subsequent offerings of our undergraduate AI course.

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